Sleep Science

Stages of Sleep

When continuous sleep is experienced you pass through phases and stages of sleep. There are 2 distinct phases of sleep NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) experienced throughout a typical 8 hour period. Both of these phases alternate every 90 minutes. Getting the right mix and enough of both NREM and REM sleep will help you maintain your natural sleep pattern and have restful and restorative sleep. As you begin to fall asleep your body enters NREM. As you approach the end of each NREM set, your body enters REM sleep. NREM takes place approximately 75% of the night and REM accounts for the remaining 25%. REM sleep is necessary to provide energy to the brain and body. During REM you dream, your eyes dart back and fourth, your body becomes relaxed, muscles shut down and your breathing and heart rate may become irregular. This deep sleep is important to daytime performance and may contribute to memory consolidation.

  • Stage 1: Light sleep; between being awake and falling asleep
  • Stage 2: Onset of sleep; becoming disengaged with the environment; breathing and heart rate are regular and body temperature decreases
  • Stage 3 & 4: Deepest and most restorative sleep; blood pressure drops; breathing becomes slower; energy is regained; and hormones are released for growth development
*All information obtained from National Sleep Foundation.

Tips for Restful Sleep

Answer these few questions with a “yes” or “no”.

  • Does it often take you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep at night?
  • Do you wake up frequently during the night – or too early in the morning – and have a hard time going back to sleep?
  • When you awaken, do you feel groggy and lethargic?
  • Do you feel drowsy during the day particularly during monotonous situations?

Choose the right sleep environment.If you answered “yes” to any one of these questions, you may have a “sleep debt” that is affecting you in ways you don’t even realize. And, you aren’t alone. A recent NSF Sleep in America poll found that a majority of American adults experience sleep problems. However, few recognize the importance of adequate rest, or are aware that effective methods of preventing and managing sleep problems now exist. The below are tips that may help you find the restful sleep you have been looking for.

  • Create a cool and comfortable environment
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime.
  • Avoid Alcohol.
  • Workout at least 3 hours before going to bed.
  • Establish a regular relaxing time before bed.
  • Take any distractions out of the room
  • Don’t nap during the day.
  • If you can’t go to sleep after 30 minutes get up and involve yourself in a relaxing activity, such as listening to soothing music or reading, until you feel sleepy.

Remember: Try to clear your mind; don’t use this time to solve your daily problems.

*All information obtained from National Sleep Foundation.

Who is at Risk for Poor Sleep

Are you having trouble sleeping?Virtually everyone suffers at least an occasional night of poor sleep. However, as the list of “sleep stealers,” below, implies certain individuals may be particularly vulnerable. These include students, shift workers, travelers, and persons suffering from acute stress, depression, or chronic pain. Employees working long hours or multiple jobs may find their sleep less refreshing. Older adults also have frequent difficulty with sleep problems, but inadequate sleep is not an inevitable part of the aging process. The total amount of sleep needed isn’t reduced. However, many of the issues are combined in the experience of elderly people with impaired health, pain and increased use of medications. Teenagers can have difficulty falling asleep until late at night and awakening early in the morning. Many young adults keep relatively irregular hours and as a group they report higher rates of dissatisfaction with the sleep they are getting. Being overweight increases the risk for sleep apnea.

What are the Biggest “Sleep Stealers”?

  • Environmental Interferences A distracting sleep environment such as a room that’s too hot or cold, too noisy or too brightly lit can disrupt your ability to get a restful sleep. According to researchers the ideal temperature for sleep should range between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Psychological Factors Stress is considered by most sleep experts to be the No. 1 cause of short-term sleeping difficulties. Common triggers include school or job-related pressures, a family or marriage problem, and a serious illness or death in the family. Usually the sleep problem disappears when the stressful situation passes. However, if short-term sleep problems such as insomnia aren’t managed properly from the beginning, they can persist long after the original stress has passed. That’s why it’s a good idea to talk to a physician about any sleeping problem that recurs or persists for longer than one week. Your doctor can help you take steps early to control or prevent poor sleep. Since insomnia can also be brought on by depression, evaluation by a healthcare professional is essential.
  • Lifestyle Stressors Without realizing it, you may be doing things during the day or night that can work against getting a good night’s sleep. These include drinking alcohol or beverages containing caffeine in the afternoon or evening, exercising close to bedtime, following an irregular morning and nighttime schedule, and working or doing other mentally intense activities right before or after getting into bed.
  • Shift Work If you are among the 17 percent of employees in the United States who are shift workers, sleep may be particularly elusive. Shift work forces you to try to sleep when activities around you – and your own “biological rhythms” – signal you to be awake. One study shows that shift workers are two to five times more likely than employees with regular, daytime hours to fall asleep on the job.
  • Jet Lag Still another sleep stealer is jet lag, an inability to sleep caused when you travel across several time zones and your biological rhythms get “out of sync.”
  • Physical Factors A number of physical problems can interfere with your ability to fall or stay asleep. For example, arthritis and other conditions that cause pain, backache, or discomfort can make it difficult to sleep well. Sleep apnea, which is recognized by snoring and interrupted breathing, causes brief awakenings (often unnoticed) and excessive daytime sleepiness. If suspected, a person having signs of sleep apnea should see a doctor. Disorders that cause involuntary limb movements during sleep, such as Restless Legs Syndrome, break up the normal sleep pattern and are also likely to make sleep less refreshing and result in daytime sleepiness. For women, pregnancy and hormonal shifts including those that cause premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or menopause and its accompanying hot flashes can also intrude on sleep.
  • Medications In addition, certain medications such as decongestants, steroids and some medicines for high blood pressure, asthma, or depression can cause sleeping difficulties as a side effect.
*All information provided from the National Sleep Foundation.